JULIO CRUZ PART OF CHICAGO WHITE SOX’ TOP TRADE DEADLINE MOVES

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

It was June 15, 1983. In those days, that was Major League Baseball’s trade deadline.

Think of the great deals — Seattle traded Randy Johnson to Houston in 1998 (by then, the deadline had been moved to July 31); C.C. Sabathia had been traded by Cleveland to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008; that same season, it was Manny Ramirez traded to the Dodgers by Boston; when the Mets got Yeonis Cespedes in 2015, the slugging outfielder led New York to the World Series; Philadelphia dealt Curt Schilling to Arizona in 2000.

All of those deals probably outweigh the swap of second basemen in that 1983 trade between Seattle and the Chicago White Sox.

Julio Cruz, the undrafted free agent out of Redlands High/San Bernardino Valley College, had been such a solid player for the Seattle Mariners — a base-stealing dynamo, not to mention a flashy fielding second baseman.

JUlio Cruz
Julio Cruz, who built a steady and sturdy career at second base with the Seattle Mariners, was eventually swapped to the Chicago White Sox in the heat of the 1983 American League Western Division chase (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

A guy named Roland Hemond noticed.

In 1983, Seattle took its sure-handed infielder and all-time leading base-stealer and dealt him to the ChiSox. That deal plucked second baseman Tony Bernazard for the Mariners.

At the time of that mid-season trade, the ChiSox were five games under .500, fifth in the American League Western Division. Hemond pulled off the Bernazard-for-Cruz trade, the only real adjustment he made to an already-strong roster.

Hemond made a trade that everyone would later credit with turning the season around.  Looking to give his team a spark, Hemond traded Bernazard to Seattle for his second base counterpart, Cruz.  The effect was immediate.

I tracked down Hemond for comments on the trade. These were, of course, the days before cell-phone usage, so getting hold of him seemed like a major achievement.

Hemond was back east. That’s three hours’ difference than the west coast. I remember trying for a few days before I connected with him.

Why would I try? Local readership, no doubt. Every local reader might want to hear about their guy. Right? A little insight on those inner workings never hurt.

INTERVIEW WITH WHITE SOX GM

Hemond must’ve been in his office at Comiskey Park., home of the White Sox.

My standard intro … “Hi, Obrey Brown here from Redlands, hometown newspaper of Julio Cruz … wondering if I could pick your brain a little about the trade you made for Julio.”

Hemond, a friendly guy, needed no further prodding.

Roland_Hemond_at_SABR_Convention_2014
In 1983, Chicago White Sox General Manager made a trade for Seattle second baseman Julio Cruz, thus helping lift the ChiSox out of fifth place and onto winning the division by 20 games over the Kansas City Royals (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

“Oh, hi,” he said. There were some pleasant formalities between the two of us. Like this one: “Think you’ll make it out here to see him play?”

Oh, yeah, I lied to him. The tiny budget the Redlands newspaper had barely allowed me to cover a Terrier game in Rialto or Fontana. Send me to Chicago? Said Hemond: “When you get here, look me up.”

If only, I thought.

“I think it’ll turn out to be a real great acquisition for this club,” said Hemond, whose East-coast accent was a nice touch to our conversation. “In fact, it’s already helped us.”

“How long have you had your eye on Julio?”

“Oh … no … wow. I’ve known about Julio for a few years. How can you not notice a guy with his glove and his ability to steal bases? No, he just didn’t jump off the page at us. We need this guy. We’ve known about him.”

Hemond said, “Our clubhouse needed a jolt. Tony (Bernazard) wasn’t all that great of an influence in there. I’ve heard a lot about Julio being a good guy.”

This baseball lifer, Hemond, was very gracious with his time. He asked, “Did you cover him while he was playing in high school out there?”

“No. I got here a few years after he left.”

I tried to stump him, though. “Julio’s coach out here was Joe DeMaggio.”

Hemond either didn’t hear me, or thought I was kidding. No, it wasn’t THE Joe DiMaggio (note the spelling difference).

COVERING THE ‘REDLANDS’ CHISOX

Those summer-time sports pages, though, got a big plug. Cruz, standing on second base, darted for home plate on Harold Baines’ sharp single to right field. Tenth inning. It was against the Angels. Game-winner. Division-clinching run. Celebration. Photos.

Huge splash in the Redlands newspaper.

Cruz was picked up from Seattle when the ChiSox were 28-32, fifth in the American League West. They went 71-31 with Cruz, batting ninth in the lineup with Rudy Law atop a strong White Sox attack.

That year’s White Sox were filled with superb batsmen. Baines, Ron Kittle, Greg Luzinski and Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, combined to hit 123 home runs. Law stole nearly 80 bases.

The pitching was topped by LaMarr Hoyt and Rich Dotson, who won 24 and 22 games, compiling the greatest number of wins in the entire league by two pitchers. Southpaw Floyd Bannister was nearly unbeatable, finishing off the season with a 13-1 streak.

Second place belonged to Kansas City, which finished a staggering 20 games behind Chicago.

The Daily Facts kept a close watch on the “Redlands” White Sox. Remember, this was A Redlands Connection.

By the All-Star break the Sox had climbed to three games over .500.  Then things really got hot. The Sox climbed into first place on July 18 and never looked back.  Their second half record was 59-26, a .694 winning percentage.

Not everyone was impressed.  One out-of-town writer dismissed the team as no better than fifth best in the A.L. East. Texas manager Doug Rader theorized that the Sox’s bubble had to burst. “They’re not playing that well. They’re winning ugly.”

On September 17 at Comiskey Park, the White Sox clinched Chicago’s first championship in twenty years. Baines’ single brought home Cruz with the winning run.

BIRDS TOOK OUT CHICAGO IN PLAYOFFS

Chicago’s opponents in the playoffs would be Baltimore, the only team to take the season series against the ChiSox, seven games to five. In the playoffs, the Orioles won three out of four.

Even with Julio, that group of White Sox couldn’t shake the Baltimore Orioles in the American League championship series. Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray and a strong corps of pitchers ousted Chicago in the playoffs and ended up beating the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

The ex-Terrier hit .333 in four games, the White Sox winning game one, 2-1, before the Orioles came streaking back to win 4-0, 11-1 and 3-0 behind strong pitching from Mike Boddicker, Tippy Martinez and Mike Flanagan.

As for Hemond, that slick transaction for Julio may have gone a long way in snagging his second Sporting News Executive of the Year honors.

Years later, ’83 White Sox manager Tony La Russa and I were eyeball to eyeball in spring training Arizona. By this point, he had moved on to manage the Oakland A’s. I couldn’t help but try and snag him for some comments – even though it was years later – on Cruz.

Tony La Russa
Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa called Julio Cruz an “igniter” when asked about the former Redlands ballplayer (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

La Russa didn’t have much time. Calling Cruz “an igniter,” La Russa wasn’t in a mood to chat. He said, “The thing I remember from that team was the power we had … Julio and Rudy Law gave us another dimension to score runs with their speed.”

One final, quick comment: “He played a great second base for us.”

Footnote: Seattle lost 102 games in 1983.

Sabathia, Johnson, Ramirez and all the other more famous MLB trade deadline might draw more attention in baseball’s history book. For the Chicago White Sox, however, that deal might be No. 1.

 

 

DAUER HELPED BAPTIZE SPIRIT IN REDLANDS, 1987

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Rich Dauer sat beside me on the first base bench just after the San Bernardino Spirit finished playing under the dimly-lit field at Redlands Community Field.

It was April 1987. Thirty-one years later, he would be taking part in a pre-game ceremony at the newly-crowned world champion Houston Astros. Back then, they were playing in the Astrodome.

But on this date in 1987, something new was taking place. The California League had just expanded to, of all places, San Bernardino.

Less than two decades earlier, his high school team came to play at Redlands.

“I remember playing here,” he said, referring to Community Field, “in high school.”

Here was Dauer who, only a few years earlier, had played second base on the 1983 Baltimore Orioles’ World Series championship.

He was homegrown.

Colton High School, a 1970 graduate.

San Bernardino Valley College, then known as the Indians.

Then it was onto USC, where he was a two-time All-American third baseman, helping lead the Trojans to win the College World Series in both 1973 and 1974. He’s now a Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Famer, having been the team’s No. 1 draft pick (1974), playing in two World Series.

Chris Tillman, Rich Dauer
Colton’s Rich Dauer, inducted into the Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Fame in 2012, brought the San Bernardino Spirit to Redlands’ Community Field in 1987 (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

The Spirit knew where many of their fans might show up at Fiscalini Field – located on Highland Ave. in San Bernardino – and that was Redlands.

Showing up at Community Field was the perfect public relations move. The Spirit could sell a lot of tickets to these folks.

With his hitting coach, Jay Johnstone, sitting nearby, Dauer reflected on minor league ball players.

“These guys,” he said, motioning out to those Class A players, “aren’t that far away from the major leagues.”

It was quite a proclamation. These were minor leaguers, Rich, I’d told him.

He shook his head in disagreement.

“All these guys are,” he said, “just young. They need experience. They can throw just as hard, hit it just as far … as any major leaguers. They just need to get consistent.

“That’s what will keep them out of the majors,” he said. “If they’re not consistent.”

There were some future major leaguers on that Spirit roster.

Todd Cruz and Rudy Law, plus Terry Whitfield, pitchers Andy Rincon and Craig Chamberlain – all of whom showed up

Cruz, in fact, was an infield teammate of Dauer’s on that 1983 Orioles team.

Law played against the O’s in the 1983 American League playoffs when Baltimore knocked off the Chicago White Sox.

All those ex-MLB players were playing out the string.

Another Spirit, infielder Mike Brocki, had torn apart Redlands High in a CIF soccer playoff a few years earlier – scoring three times in a 6-0 win. For the Spirit in 1987, he hit two HRs and batted .233.

Let’s not forget another Spirit infielder, Leon Baham, who would eventually become one of Redlands’ top youth baseball coaches in years ahead. Baham hit .279 with 8 HRs that season.

And Ronnie Carter, a Fontana product who was an NCAA Division 3 All-American at the University of Redlands a couple years earlier, got 164 at-bats (4 HRs, .213) for a squad that was filled by plenty of guys that had no shot at a major league career.

Dauer sat over all of them, perhaps lining himself up for a lengthy future in MLB. Curiously, he never drew a manager’s assignment at the MLB level, coaching at Kansas City, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Colorado and, finally, Houston.

Dauer spent as much time as I needed on that Community Field bench that night. Plenty of local youths showed up to watch this split-squad game.

Pitchers fired seeds.

Hitters took big cuts.

Baserunners seemed quick, fast.

Fielders made it look easy.

Dauer, working for the Seattle Mariners, had the task of sitting over these guys.

Three decades later, Dauer was pulling himself to the mound at Minute Maid Park. It was April 2, 2018 – today’s date, in fact.  He threw out the first pitch.

For the previous three seasons, he had coached first base as the Astros made a dramatic move toward becoming contenders. When Houston beat the Dodgers in a thrilling 7-game series the previous fall, Dauer was back in familiar territory.

Tragedy struck at the World Series parade. Dauer suffered a head injury, resulting in emergency brain surgery. It brought his coaching career – 19 years strong – to a pre-mature conclusion.

He was the perfect selection to throw out the first pitch.

That 1987 season in San Bernardino was his first as a coach. His playing career concluded in 1985. He had been teammates with the likes of Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray and Jim Palmer.

None of that trio ever played California League ball. Dauer cut his teeth as a coach in that historical assemblage of minor league cities.

It no way resembled the California League that would eventually surface in various Southern California cities.

San Bernardino had joined the Bakersfield Dodgers, Fresno Giants, Modesto A’s, Palm Springs Angels, Reno Padres, Salinas Spurs, San Jose Bees, Stockton Ports and the Visalia Oaks. Truth is, the Salinas Spurs had moved to San Bernardino, adopting the Spirit name.

Here he was, back in Redlands after a well-traveled baseball career. Only a few hundred had bothered to show.

Dauer seemed to be the perfect pick to lead the Spirit.

After all, he had been a local product.

“It never occurred to me,” said Dauer on that April 1987 night, “that there’d ever be a minor league team in San Bernardino.”